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Well at Work

Flexibility: A Concern for the Workforce


A group of Iowa manufacturers recently opened their factory doors to Iowa State University researchers, with the hope of learning about the health and wellness of their employees. Based on the analysis done, investments in employee wellness programs will soon follow. Here’s why.

The majority of employees—as much as 85 percent—had significant restrictions in joint flexibility.

“When you’re dealing in a manufacturing environment, regardless of the task, dexterity and flexibility are always going to be important. You need to assemble things, you need to weld them, and some people need to lift things,” said Mike O'Donnell, program director at the Center for Industrial Research and Service at Iowa State, in a press release.“If you’re not flexible, you’re at risk for higher injury rates, at risk for not being able to do your job well enough.”

More than 80 percent of employees were obese or overweight, based on body composition testing. In turn, nearly 45 percent were at high to very high risk for chronic disease, such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. And about one in four employees still smoked cigarettes, averaging 12 butts a day.

Intervention programs have been designed for the worksites and the researchers will revisit the companies in January for a follow-up employee health appraisal.

“All our evidence says there will be a net positive financial return for the companies. While we’re relatively sure helping employees become healthier will improve absenteeism rates, the real question is will it impact health care premiums?” said O'Donnell.

Note that in 2014, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, employers can provide more incentives for their workers to opt into wellness programs. However, businesses can also increase insurance premiums for employees who don't participate.

Tags: Disease, Work, Flexibility